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I had the pleasure, albeit a somewhat nervous pleasure, of being interviewed by
my good friend Monica Lee of Smart Creative Women via Skype (nothing makes you more aware of age and weight than knowing you will be on camera). That interview
will go live very soon, but I thought I would share some thoughts that Monica and I never
really got to cover fully during the time we spoke, because time did, as time does in real life,
have had the good fortune of being able to spend nearly one hundred percent of
my time these last forty years, making art in one form or another. I did take a
few years off when my two oldest sons were little, but when I think back on
that time, I was always dong something creative (and most of it was donated for
fundraising events of one kind or another), just not all of it professionally. Aside from that short break, it
has pretty much been non-stop all the time.
nonstop at what? Well, nonstop at
art. Art in many forms and in many materials for many venues. In
short: I've been a painter, puppeteer, doll maker, soft sculptureartist/craftsperson, editorial illustrator, children's book author and illustrator,
fabric designer, licensed artist, and now I am also painting again. I’ve also
spent a lot of time decorating houses, but, to be very honest, that makes me
zero money. It only costs me money. But that's OK. It satisfies my soul. It's a medium I have to work in almost as
much as my paints. “House--just another art material and artistic discipline."
But back to business. If I look back over all my years as an
artist, I see one thing: my aesthetic sensibility has not changed much in forty
years. I am still drawn to the same things I was drawn to in
college--characters, details, expressive gestures, and emotions. I love color
and texture and patterns. I especially like narratives. Everything I do tends
to tell a story, and the story is in the details, textures and characters.
I have written about this before and in much more detail. You can read the first accout I wrote years ago for my very first web site. It really rambles and tells the story of the earliest years. Here is the place to read that. I created an abbreviated version for my current web site. You can ready that one here.
I’m sharing some recent art here
at Cats and Jammers Studio to coordinate with the interview. I am also sharing
some of the house and other new art on my other blog, Design Rocket.
What message would I love to give other
artists? This: don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself and try new things. Life as an artist is a wild journey on a winding road. A few
years back, I posted a long post about moving in random directions in life,
seemingly as if by pure serendipity. Well, life is that but it is also by luck
and pluck, and maybe much less by design than we think. Please read that
post, Serendipity + Pluck = Life.
Much of the art here is from my 2011 Sketchbook Project, “Coffee and Cigarettes.” I
loved doing that book. I have done two others since. You can see the digital scans of my book here. And you can see the show opening containg paintngs based on the book here.
Participating in the Sketchbook Projects for the Art House Coop really feeds my artistic soul.My most recent book was titled “Strangers.” In doing that book I dedicated
it to my painting and drawing professor of my sophomore year of college, John
Patrick Murphy II. John was the head of the art department at Rockland
Community College for more than 30 years. On the very first day I met him, I shared
some paintings and he gave me advice that has stayed with me all these years: “Barbara,
draw out of your head.” Meaning, draw from the well within you that has your memories and
your impressions. And that is the way I have worked ever
John very recently passed away. This post
is dedicated to him, because, really, meeting him and getting to know him was pure serendipity and it pointed me along the way on my own artistic journey.
Here we go again. I discovered this on Jeannie Jeannie. Wonderful pictures that chronicle the passing of time. This time we have shots by photogrpaher Irina Werning as she gets her subjects to strike a pose and don clothing that match, as much as possible, a shot from when they were very young.
You know I love this stuff. I love seeing the evidence of a life that has been lived or is in the process.This tempts me to try and do the same thing with pictures I have. I have one picture from 8th grade of Phil and I and Bobby Stewart, another classmate, that we need to recreate if we can manage to get together sometime in our life.
Go check out the rest of these pictures. They will make you smile but you might also find yourself waxing a little melancholy. Time stops for no man... nor baby.
This is so in tune with my pulp fiction covers and Fancy Nancy YA book jacket, that I HAVE to share a link sent to me by my friend Liz for "Vinatge Valentines WTF." And if you these are strange, wait until you see the rest of the fantastic collection.
I tried. I really really tried. But..but I didn't try THAT hard.
Of course, my reputation is still intact. I am talking about my obsession with finding imagery and posting it on Pinterest. And lately, my biggest pleasure has been finding old paperback pulp fiction covers and then adding my own captions.
You don't know about Pinterest? That might be a good thing, because it is already an addiction for me when I need a few minutes of down time from work. It's like keeping scrapbooks of your favorite imagery, and getting to share it with EVERYONE. And the site is growing. Here is a piece on it from Mashable.
My Flag is Down is actually from my own paperback collection. As my friend Liz said, "I bet it won't be down for long."
And I just discoverd the newer, less "upright" cover for this novel. By the look on his face, I'm not so sure this Taxi driver will know what to do to get that flag up again.
Pop over to my Pinterest Board and have a look see for yourself. But be warned--Pinterest is great fun!
(Incidentally, I happened to catch Tarrentino's Pulp Fiction on TV last night. I do love that movie!)
I live for this kind of photography: haunting shots of once lively and active places, now in ruins. There is something that hits a nerve somewhere within me that makes me look at the disintegration of old structures, and see it not just as it is, but as it must have been.
There's a lot to read and a lot to see in this wonderful photo essay about New York's North Brother Island and abandoned Riverside Hospital from The Kingston Lounge, which may soon become another favorite photo blog for me, right up there with Shorpy. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves and the history tell it's own story.
Simms Tabak was one of very favorite illustrators, if not THE favorite. He very recently passed away and since I find that this blog seems more and more to be about losing artists who have touched me, it would be terribly remiss to not talk about Simms.
Although I got to know his books through reading them to my youngest son, Ben, I actually got to know his art when I first used one of his designs to wallpaper the room of my middle son, Mike. That was more than 22 years ago. Sadly, I cannot find a single image to post to show that lovely wallpaper. And it has been long papered over. It do remember that it was leaping kids, a boy and a girl, doing jumping jacks or something to that effect. If anyone has any left or knows where I can get some, PLEASE contact me!
I think that this book is everything one can want in a children's book. It is has a page turning quality, with a lovely repetitive rhythm. It is fun. It is also beautifully illustrated, without being tight and self important and self congratulatory, not to mention pretentious, which is what so many kids' book art is. Not this book. The art has a wonderful mock-primitive feel that is actually extremely sophisticated and extraordinarily satisfying, from an artist's point of view. Any artist, even in the absence of liking kids' books, would love and appreciate this artwork. The art stands completely on its own. To be honest, a lot of art for kids' books may hold up in the children's book
My ethnic heritage is half Norwegian/Swedish and half Italian. The way I figure it, that is my the source of my weight problem, because when it comes to food, my appetite is the offspring of a marriage between a conquering Viking who invented the Smorgasbord and a loving Mama Mia, chanting, "Mangia, Mangia!" In other words, I love good food and drink and enjoy a great meal with close friends, or even friends not that close for that matter, as much as anything in the world. And that love is simply deadly for the waistline.
Don't get me wrong. I love all that stuff, like whole grains, salads, and fish filets and legumes. The problem is that I love them to excess, like hungry Nordic lord or a zoftig Italian Grandma. I also love Meat. Almost any meat. Burn the hair off and serve it up. Not good, even in small amounts.
I have to say that I found the interview totally entertaining and that Simon Doonan came across as a person I would love to get to know better--probably over a hearty meal with lots of red wine, instead of a light lunch. The dry humor and quick wittedness apparent in the article have only whet my appetite for more, so I think I will have to read some of his other books, like Wacky Chicks and Eccentric Glamour, to consume some more of his entertaining repartee.
Meals. Appetite. Consume. Sigh. It's all about food in the end, isn't it? Oh, well. Pass the champagne. I'll toast to that.
Now off to get the books. Check back for a review at some point.
The above photo is from Robert Heller. It is of his parents and was submitted to the New York time for this wonderful piece: THE LIVES THEY LOVED. Do yourself a big favor. Take the time to look at and read through this slide show.
If you have read this blog on a few occasions then you know that the single thing that most fascinates me is the passing of time. In keeping with that, I want to take a moment and wish that anyone reading this takes a moment and reflects on life, love, lives, loves, and how very quickly we experience all of it.
This NY Times collection of memories from not-famous people of not-famous loved ones who have left this earth this past year will touch you in a way that warms your heart and make you think of your own loved ones, alive or gone.
Here's to finding time in 2012 to reflect on what exactly it all means--not that we will come to know for certain, but maybe we can all just think about it some more. And let's think about loved ones who have left us and about what our lives should hold for us going forward. Will those words written about you reflect that you lived life fully and richly, generously and thoughtfully? Hope so.
Have the happiest and most thoughtful of holidays!
It's been a Loooooong while since I was able to carve out blogging time. I am hoping that I can get back on schedule after a solid year of non-stop art work with books and fabrics.
Mind you, I am not complaining. I am thrilled to have the illustration work and the inspiration to create. But balance it always good, and so, after having stuffed myself silly with work this year and stuffed myself silly with food over the Thanksgiving weekend, it is time to regroup, step back, and assess.
So stop back and visit me again soon. I'll be posting some "deep thoughts" something later this week.
It seems that this blog is often turning into a forum for obituaries of people who have moved me. That may very well be, for I if I am going to write about things that are important to me, then that needs to include losing people or artists who have touched my life. I guess as one gets older and more of those key players in a person’s lifetime pass away, it becomes even more important to acknowledge, reflect upon, and celebrate lives well lived.
Along those lines, several weeks ago I was so sorry to read in the NY Timesthat Jazz artist Billy Taylor had passed away. Here is another blog post about it on Mirror On America. I was also so sad to read about the passing of George Shearing in today's NY Times. When I want the kind of harmonic jazz that is both contemplative and inspiring, I think of Billy Taylor and George Shearing. Their music has a distinctly classy and urban New York feel to me. I love it for the harmonic, sensitive and thoughtful sound, as well as for the fact that it reminds me of early years in New York, listening to live jazz in the city. That sound reminds me of being very young and feeling the world was there for the celebrating and taking.
I was very young. A good friend of my then-fiancee, Phil's and mine, Norm Freeman, was a student at Julliard. Our summer evenings would often be like this: I would work until my shift was done at Capra's Restaurant in Stony Point, NY. That was usually until about eleven at night. Norman and Phil would pick me up and we would then zip into New York City to catch some live jazz. Getting down to the village about forty minutes later meant we could catch at least one set in a club.
And in the early seventies, you could hear some great music in the clubs at night. We most often ended up going to the Village Gate (Top of the Gate) or the Village Vanguard or the Half Note. At the Vanguard we caught the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra in a place where we would
In the early to mid-1970s, I was living in Buffalo. Having grown up in the NY/NJ area, and pretty much mired in the overpowering megalopolis of NYC, the contrast of Buffalo, against what I was familiar with, was striking. Make no mistake. Even though the city is officially in the state of New York, Buffalo is very much a part of the great Midwest. For me, it was extremely different. In the winter the sun NEVER came out. It was a city that had a small town feel. The foods had different names. There were even foods served in restaurants up there that nobody thought of back then (they don't call them Buffalo Wings for nothing). The accent? The total opposite of a New York accent. A Buffalo accent is the same as a Chicago accent--the A's cannot possibly get any flatter.
In those years, I was a stranger in a strange land. We had no money. We barely eked out an existence. Naturally, I did the only thing I could do: I made art. And my art reflected my experience. It was dark and it was pensive.
Fresh out of college, I had left painting and drawing behind for fiber art, because the trauma of an obnoxious art program made me want to flee from what I knew. And so, I began to create in cloth the very figures I had always drawn. The odd thing was this: as unfamiliar as it was, Buffalo was the perfect place to really get in touch with myself and my aesthetic.
And THAT is where Milton Rogovin came in. I had been making cloth figures for about a year when I discovered his photographs. I was already familiar with the work of Diane Arbus. I found her photos tremendously inspiring. But Rogovin's work touched me in a way that made for a shift in my thinking. What I learned from Milton Rogovin is that portraiture is best when in context. That is to say, that the things that people surround themselves with or the things that hover in the background, are as much a statement about who the persons are, as are their actual faces. And his work contained a more positive, and less depressing "feel." The picture above was part of the collection of his work that first caught my eye in the mid seventies when I was still living and working on the north side of Buffalo.
His work influenced me even more in my years as an editorial illustrator. The work I did in the early to late 80s was filled with the kinds of images that might have been pictures taken of actual people by Mr. Rogovin, had they been real and not out of my imagination. I like to think that I channeled his way of thinking into my art as an illustrator, as I had done as a fiber artist.
Tomorrow my husband and I are heading down to good old Rockland County, New York for my 40th high school reunion--North Rockland High School, Class of 1970. The school is now located in Theills, New York and has been since it opened for my senior year. This won't be so tortuous for my husband because he actually went to school with most of these people until his family moved to another nearby town in 10th grade. The best part is that the reunion will take place in Haverstraw (which is where the grand, old school was from 1933 until the new one was built) in a place just a half a block down the street from the house (on the Hudson River) in which my husband grew up, until the fateful move.
Needless to say, this is a prime experience for a time-passing-obsessive-nut like myself. What could be better than participating your own Ken Burns experience? I am not exaggerating when I say that with very little effort, I can put myself right back in my late 60s mindset, in the very halls where my high school heart still wanders in my dreams. In that place, everyone still looks exactly as they did 40 years ago. Close my eyes, and it is not much of a stretch to be back in my old clothes, in my old classrooms, cafeteria, and locker room, with a vivd sense of what was. I can recall the feeling of the halls, the big old windows, the way the old granite and marble steps felt, the vivid CCC/WPA Depression painted murals on the walls of the Home Ec classroom, and the sense of a solid and substantial building meant to last (they still use it for the Middle School).
I won't go into much detail about how the new, one level, barely finished high school structure felt for the one laskluster year I was there. But suffice it to say that the yearbook staff managed to sneak one four letter word via morse code into the monotmous brick cover of the yearbook itself; that exposed where our collective hearts really lay with regard to the new school vs. the old stately building. It was a very silly and immature act of rebellion in retrospect, of course, but accurate at the time for a bunch of 17-18 year olds who loved the old building and town fiercely.
In any event, I am very much looking forward to doing some time travel and some great catching up with my former classmates to see where our lives have led us during the past 40 years. We may not look now as we did then, but I am sure that many of us still feel like adolescents in our hearts.
After a weekend of High School revisited in Rockland, back in Boston the following week my husband and I have are having dinner with one of his law school classmates and his wife, after not seeing them for 30 years. Here is another case where it is effortless to imagine us once again back in Ithaca where we lived for 3 years, and get into that late seventies mindset. And it is equally vivid: clothes, food, house, soft sculptured dolls everywhere, while he happily toiled away in the evenings at his studies. Got local yogurt, Earth shoes,
Just when I thought there was absolutely no reason to watch television anymore, along comes the best thing since, well, the other best reason to watch television--the Sopranos. And the new best thing? BOARDWALK EMPIRE. If you haven't heard already, this new series on HBO, is set in Atlantic City in 1920--at the beginning of Prohibition and what would become the roaring twenties. Leading the show is the charcter of Nucky Thompson (based on real-life boss Nucky Johnson, see below), City Treasurer and the boss of everything that goes on in and around life on the Boardwalk.
I have to admit I was already pretty eager to watch this show after catching the preliminary hype. What's not to anticipate with glee when you see names like Martin Scorcese and Steve Buscemi and Terrence Winter? Still, I wondered, will it really be so good? Nothing will ever come close to the Sopranos....
Well, I have just found appointment TV again. Last night I caught the first episode, directed by Scorcese, and it was everything I had hoped for, plus much, much more: the dialogue was rich in the way that classic Sopranos dialogue used to be (touched with the hand of authenticity and believability of character, gilded with surprising black humor in the perfect places); the attention to visual details was near perfect; the scenes were shot with the sense of true cinema, complete with near brain-scan close-ups and vivid costumes and makeup; the period music sent you back in time; and the actors were absolutely perfectly cast. If I have to make one complaint, I would say that I caught a touch of mis-matched dialogue/film synching, that distracted me somewhat early on, but I got over it.
Prior to seeing the first, I had read that it would take seeing a number of episodes to buy into Steve Bsucemi as the infamous Nucky Thompson. Not so. Within minutes I was sold on his portrayal, and even though the name of James Gandolfini as the lead was bantered around in the pre-show hype, I cannot imagine anyone better in this part than Buscemi.
Michael Pitt practically has steam escaping from his pores, as he plays the part of Jimmy Darmody, Princeton drop-out who comes home from his service as a dough boy in WWI to embrace his darker side (discovered, or, perhaps, uncovered "over there") as Nucky's right hand man. Let's just say he simmers with the need to satisfy those urges.
Somewhere in the 80s, I was out with three friends of mine, all Asian. I can't remember exactly how or why, but the discussion turned to Charlie Chan. "Oh, I loved Charlie Chan," I said, sincerely and innocently. "Those were my favorite old movies!" And they were. My husband and I used to watch them religiously back in Buffalo in the 70s, where one of the local stations would broadcast one every week at around 11 o'clock. It was my first experience with appointment television since counting the minutes until five o'clock waiting for the Mickey Mouse Club twenty years earlier.
"Ugh. You can't be serious," was the collective reply of my friends. "He is one of the worst stereotypes for Asians."
I felt like someone hit me in the chest. First, to think that I would willingly subscribe to that kind of thinking about people was an embarrassment. But, more important, I did not even see the reason for their disgust with the character (and hopefully, not me). My husband and I loved him and loved son number one (played by Warner Oland and Keye Luke respectively). In my mind, Charllie made everyone else around him look positively stupid, goofy, awkward, and incapable of seeing the details. He, on the other hand, was brilliant, had a fantastic gift for dry humor, and was all-knowing and all-seeing without being obnoxious. What's not to love? What better kind of stereotype can one ask for?
Reading the August 9th edition of the New Yorker yesterday I came upon a wonderful review by Jill Lepore of a brand new book by Yunte Huang: Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous With American History. Ms. Lepore offers some enjoyable information about Earl Derr Biggers, the author who first brought to character of Chan to book form and the movies themselves. But, even better, is reading about Huang's book which reveals that Charlie Chan was based on an actual Chinese detective with the Honolulu police force, by the name of Chang Apana, who was a legend in his own time for solving crimes. There are more wonderful facts to glean from the book, so get a hold of it and dig in. It is available now for pre-order (I made sure to order mine, you betcha).
Just as intriguing to me, is the story about the author, Yunte Huang. Mr. Huang was born and brought up in China, and may well have no
Yesterday was Flag Day. Not knowing where the holiday came from, I looked it up and found these facts on Wikipedia: June fourteen is the day on which the Second Continental Cogress adopted the flag in 1777 as the flag of the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day and in 1949 National Flag Day was established an Act of Congress. Pennsylvania is the only state to celebrate the day as a state holiday. Right here in Quincy, MA there is a long running Flag Day parade, and in 2010, they celebrated their 59th. The largest Flag Day parade is held in Troy, NY and the oldest continuing parade is held in Fairfield, WA which has had one every year since about 1910, with the exception of 1918. I would love to attend one of these parades. I love parades amd I am nothing if not patriotic. Don't forget--I have an entire powder room I call the Oval Office.
Every year Flag Day sneaks up on me and I seem to miss it. Actually, every year the entire year sneaks up on me and I seem to miss it. This year, however, I was determined to fly the stars and stripes. And I remembered Flag Day! There was too much going on yesterday for me to take pictures, but I thought I would go out and shoot today. My flags will stay up until at least past the 4th of July, so it makes me happy to know they won't be collecting spider webs in the garage for another year, unused.
Besides reading the obituaries of two well know writers in this morning's New York Times, Robert Parker and Erich Segal, I was terribly upset to read of the death of Kate McGarrigle, at 63.
If I had to pin point specific music to be the soundtrack of my life as an artist working in my studio, it would be the music of the McGarrigle Sisters, whom I first heard on Saturday Night Live in the mid seventies, performing "Heart Like a Wheel." Naturally, even with the most limited of funds, we went out and bought that first album, "Kate and Anna McGarrigle," which became the very music that followed me from home to home, and studio to studio.
The beautiful harmonies and melodies of Kate and Anna filled my small back room studio in Buffalo, New York while I sat and sewed the figures and dolls that first began my true life as a full time artist. When we came back from three months as vagabonds in Europe and settled in Elmira, New York, the album was the first to resume its proper place as number one on my play list. Happliy sewing away in the dining room of an old flat in the even more old fashion town of Elmira (which I loved, by the way), I listened to the sounds of that first album almost non-stop. I loved when they sang of what I thought was upstate New York in "Talk to Me of Mendocino," and I thought for sure I heard a slight smile in the voice of Kate when she sang the lead in "Go Leave," which I always imagined was her send off to her former husband Loudan Wainwright.
Make no mistake: as wonderful as the tunes themselves are the lyrics to the music of Kate and Anna. Theirs is truly poetry set to music in a way that makes it impossible to separate the two. Their sweet voices embraced the words and told the stories and your heart was never left untouched. The only time things went over my head was when they sang in French. I had not a clue about what they were singing. I liked it anyway.
In 1978 we moved to Ithaca so my husband could attend law school at Cornell, and I set up shop in a ramshackle house on Route 79, Slaterville Road. There, amidst the dolls and the cloths and the threads, and the painted eyeballs, played the wonderful, harmonious McGarrigles.
And there, we happily added two more albums to the play list, "Dancer With Bruised Knees,"
Here is the problem when you like to blog and when you also like to read the blogs of others: it all takes time, and on any given day, I seem to have less and less of it. Truth be known, when it comes to choosing between entertaining myself reading what other people have written or attempting to wax poetic myself and share my thoughts with readers, I choose--you guessed it--entertaining myself! Surprise, surprise!
In the blog post before this one, I wrote about getting in my daily dose of pick-me-up at Awkward Family Photos. Love the site. Can't stay away. Can't stop laughing.
But my other, equally enjoyable place to visit and find a smile on my face and maybe even tears of laughter in my eyes is CAKE WRECKS. Cake Wrecks is exactly that--a blog devoted to the so-called professionally done cakes one can buy in a bakery, supermarket, or wherever, that are, in a word, wrecks. As defined by Jen Yates, the genius behind the site and the book that came out of the site:
WHAT IS A WRECK?
"A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places."
There is something about the combination of dogs and decor that just makes me smile. Or maybe it is the combination of dogs and so-called-glamour decor that is humorous, because, when you stop to think about it, the entire concept of glamour is a bit ridiculous in a typically human centric sort of way.
What better way to scoff at the pretentiousness of "elegant living" other than to take a pooch and plop him on a satin sofa, with an exotic wallpaper in the background? Add a wind machine and fur and floppy ears flowing in the artificial breeze, and you would be hard pressed NOT to conjure up any film you have ever seen about models and photographers and how self involved they always seem. Can you stop yourself from smirking when you think about how seriously human models take those glamour shots compared to these four-legged ones? Compare the top video with this one.
The notion of "glamour" is absurd, really. Just look at these dogs. Think they're getting paid thousands of dollars to look every bit as beautiful as super models? More likely a biscuit or rawhide chew. And to think they do it all without makeup!
Mind you, they picked the best kind of dog for the cover shot--a French Bull dog, just like my Itty Bitty Busy Body.
I had a hard time deciding which blog to put this post on. Since my other blog is largely about design, I flirted with putting it there.
In the end I decided it had to go here, because, more than anything else the book sends a subtle message about life and silliness and the things we humans do and value.
This morning over breakfast, I was immediately drawn to an article in today's NY Times," The Collected Ingredients of a Beijing Life " by Holland Carter. The article is about the Chinese artist Song Dong, and his wonderful installation at MoMa entitled "Waste Not." Mr. Song has taken the entire contents of the house of his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan, and arranged them in the museum's atrium, along with a piece of the house itself. Arranged in sorted piles of like objects, the art is a testament to the idea of a life defined by the possessions one accumulates and hoards.
Photo: Todd Heisler/New York Times
It is no secret from my blog post that I consider love, creativity, art and objects ( both ordinary and exceptional) to be be the stuff that life is made of. Essentially, I think who we are as humans is who and how we love, how we create, and what we collect and surround ourselves with. My grandmother was someone who loved and spoiled and fed me. But she was also the person who collected an enormous quantity of knick knacks and figurines; held on to every piece of clothing she ever owned; saved every plastic shopping bag and Cool Whip container she came across, and who was joined at the hip to her sewing machine. When I remember her, I always remember her in the context of these things. They were as much a part of who she was as the endless hugs and kisses and lasagna she bestowed upon me.
Photo: Todd Heisler/New York Times
So, I completely get the piece by Song Dong. For me, I do not think the installation is as grand a comment on Chinese society as it is a portrait of one person and the person's life. Politics, changing social structures and society may affect who we are and who we become. But, still, we are more a part of the world we create for ourselves than we are apart of the world at large. "Waste Not" is more than anything else a portrait of a son's mother and of her life. Mr. Song included EVERYTHING in this piece down to used tubes of toothpaste and empty plastic bottles. The effect in the photos in the NY Times slide show, is enormously powerful. Make sure to check it out. The artful arrangements of the like objects make little displays within the display. This is an art piece that would make me want to take a lot of time. I would love to study, absorb, and thoroughly enjoy every single bit of it. I hope I can get down to NY to see this exhibit in person as soon as possible. The show runs through September 21.
Of course, I cannot help but wonder what would a similar piece look like if my son were to attempt to do the same? I think it might require a space like Madison Square Garden. And even then, it might not fit.
For those of you who have not heard read about it, this complex of performing arts center and museum is built on the site of the famous music festival held exactly 40 years ago this summer, which was not actually held in Woodstock, NY, but in Bethel, New York.
Forty years ago, I had just finished my junior year in high school in good old Haverstraw, New York. In that year I was still very immature, but I managed to see Hair on Broadway--and survive even tho I thought I would faint at the end of Act I. Here is a clip from the Smothers Brothers and some of the original cast.This song from that show played on WABC for half the year. That summer of 1969 was the summer of my seventeenth year-- a great and worry free time in my life. It was a wonderful summer, full of long hair, lake time, and lifeguards ( I dated an awful lot of lifeguards that summer, because that was when a casual "date" was just that--a date--and nothing more). It was a summer about getting excited thinking of my last year of high school and getting ready to go away to college and wondering and talking about where that college would be. Naturally, it was a summer of great music (actually it was a decade of great music, but that is another long post altogether).
Unfortunately for me, even though I grew up not too far from the location of the event, it was not a summer of great music at the Woodstock festival because I came from an old fashioned family that needed to know where I was at night and with whom. I had curfews, doncha know. Heading off for three days to listen to music and sleep somewhere other than my own bedroom? Ha! Sadly not in the realm of my growing up experience; my mother would have had the state police out looking for me, and I was not a good liar at making up plausible "where I was going" stories. So, even though I know there were plenty of kids there even younger than I who had the ultimate rock and roll experience in the summer of 1969, I
was not one of them.
Fortunately I have had the pleasure of f a) living through that whole time and b) visiting the Museum at Bethel Woods.
If you have not yet done so, you make a point of visiting this museum. This museum is not just about Woodstock, even though that event and this property were the driving force behind the creation of the entire Center for the Arts. This museum is really about the 1960s, a decade that started out like "American Grafiti" and "Back to the Future" and ended up like Gimme Shelter. To use yet another movie reference for those of you not yet alive or too young to know, think--"Hairspray" is set in 1962. That is a heck of a lot different from the whole hippie/love-in/flower children/ ambience of Woodstock just seven years later.
Our dear friend Micahel Egan was the person in charge of bringing this museum into existence and overseeing the project, which was made possible by upstate NY businessman Alan Geary who purchased the land and funded the work with the very idea of creating the magnificent site that is there today.
Heading to Bethel Woods is well worth a trip. The museum does a great job of presenting the picture of 1960-1969 in a way that everyone will understand and will be able to grasp, no matter what point of reference is brought to the table. With a great many interactive displays it is a great hands-on experience for young and old alike, so bring the family.
Needless to say, it was a fun time machine adventure for me. I left wishing I had braved the wrath of my parents and lived life a little more dangerously in that summer of 1969. Ah, well, it would not have been who I really was back then, which was very young in so many ways--maybe even "younger" than the fourteen year olds who did indeed manage to sneak up there for three wonderful days.
Well, back to work for me. Lately, while I work I have been listening to a sixties music feed. My head is stuck somewhere between big giant rollers and Dippity-do. I must be trying to conjure up the summer of '69 once again. Not too hard when one is lost in thought and art and music of the time.
Part of me will be glad when the summer is over. I think it will be a welcome relief when I will return to 2009, which I expect to do with more energy once I step out of this endless summer of time travel.
But, until I do, I'm revving up the jukebox and thinking about Coppertone, Saturday nights, and Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Happened to catch a piece in yesterday's NYTimes reviewing E.L.Doctorow's new novel, "Homer and Langley." The novel is another Doctorow blend of fiction and fact to tell the story of two brothers who lived in New York city in their Harlem brownstone during the first half of the last century. I love Doctorow's books, so I'll make sure to catch this one.
The bothers in this story/history were somewhat eccentric, to say the least. And they were collectors, too, but referring to them that way, might be the understatement of the modern age if you check out the article and their history. Here is a hint: the bodies of the two men were found in their home by police in 1947, one buried under a pile of trash kept inside the house and the other of starvation.
As a collector myself, I often worry what our children will have to deal with if my husband and I do not divest ourselves of years of stuff. Just read a couple of posts back and you will see what one son did with his mother's stuff. Oy.
Apparently, Andy Warhol suffered from the same malady that I and countless others have, which makes us loathe to part with things. Check out this news item about what going through HIS stuff entails. At least I threw out any wedding cake I have had left over!
In all truth, I am not so bad compared to the people I have read and written about. I'm very selective about my junk. I actually go out and buy it, as opposed to hoarding it. Why I even will go so far as to say I pale by comparison! I'm a piker!
Hey, guess what-I just had a revelation: that means there is nothing wrong with taking Mom out for lunch and junking today to get more! Off to the antique races!
If you read this blog, you already know that I obsess about the passing of time. You know that I wish I could time travel. You know that I love antiques and Ken Burns and the Oxford Project and anything that allows me a glimpse into the past.
Now that I have discovered Google Street View, I even take trips to old neighborhoods of my past so I can "walk around" a see what those places now look like compared to years ago. Let me tell you that can be fun, but also depressing. Sometimes places look very much like they did when I was living there, like my old street and house in Stony Point, New York (but the town itself is totally different) or the house my husband and I lived in in Buffalo, NY, as newlyweds. Most of the time, however, things have changed so much, I don't recognize the neighborhood at all, or, in the worst case scenario, they don't even exist, which is the case with both of the apartment buildings I lived in as a child with my grandparents in Newark, New Jersey. Gone. Empty lots. Rubble.
The discovery of Google Street View is just one of the wonderful things I came upon when I discovered my absolute favorite, MUST VISIT EVERYDAY blog: SHORPY.
To quote from the site:
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.
The blog is run by Dave, who posts the most magnificent high resolution pictures of years gone by. I do not know any personal information about Dave, except that he has some facinating looking family members whose mid century pictures he occasionally puts up on the site.
Each day, he shares several pictures, most scanned from glass negatives. Because of this, when you click the link to view the images at their full sizes, the clarity is astounding. Often, I feel as though I am right there, standing in place, a hundred years ago, or more, in real time. I look for small details of every day life, like clothing, furniture, signs, etc. I look for things that give me an idea of what even the most mundane aspects of living were like so very long ago. The size and sharpness of the posted photos allows the viewer to linger over the images like a detective looking for clues to a crime. I do that, only I am looking for clues to the past. Is the shirt soft looking? Is that a package of gum? What did they buy in the drugstore? I am less interested in the specifics of who the people were or where the shot is taken. I want small details. I am looking for that feeling of being transported over time into the spot where the picture was shot, imagining that I am there, and the time is now. I want to capture that very moment.
My favorite shots are those that are street scenes or store interiors or average neighborhoods with average people milling around. It is those scenes that really transport me back and allow me to pretend I was truly there. Perhaps it has something to do with actually having lived a childhood in the 1950s where much evidence of the early 20th century was still very much around and a part of my everyday experience. A lot of the places I frequented as a kid in 1958 still looked as they did 50 years before, so much of this imagery takes me back to my own childhood. Like now. Think about it: many things around us now also look the same now as they did 50 years ago. And now, what was common or familiar to me in the 50s, is officially one hundred years old. Time flies, doesn't it?
Make sure to read the story about the kid, Shorpy, the namesake of the blog, who was a child laborer from Alabama in 1910, and whose picture I have put above. Check out the pictures of Shorpy taken by Lewis Wickes Hine (a photographer who took a great many wonderful pictures in the early 20th century and who sadly died in poverty, unappreciated in his last years for his great photographs) and read what little is know about this little worker.
Aside from the pleasure of the time travel experience I have when I linger over the wonderful pictures, I enjoy the comments left by people who visit the blog and who have plenty to say about the photos. The comments are almost as much fun as the pictures. And a lot of these people are doing the same as I: looking for clues to the past hidden in the details.
You can become a member of the site ( which I have been meaning to do, and will make myself do today!), which makes leaving comments easier, and also allows you to post your own pictures.
The real danger of visiting Shorpy? You can lose yourself for hours and hours, going over all the wonderful pictures archived on the site. I did that several times this past summer. I lost myself in the pictures and in time. It really is the closest thing to a time machine I have found for a long time. Hey, I think I'll go grocery shopping, circa 1964. What what wonderful junk food I'll find...
Yesterday the news hit that Soupy Sales passed away. He was 83. In my mind, it will always be 1964, or 1959, depending on which Soupy TV show I happen to be remembering.
Soupy first premiered on NY television in 1959. He came on at 12 noon on Saturdays on channel 7-ABC. I loved him immediately when he did his initial "First one here gets a box of Jello" bit, followed by old film footage with a cast of thousands of people, or even an elephant stampede, all racing to get the Jello. Something abhout him just cried out, "SMART ALEC"--but in the nicest way. The bit above is most likely from the show that was on channel 5 in NY, WNEW, which debuted in 1964. Watching it I realized that Soupy was even edgier than I realized.
Here is a link to a great blog post by Dan Brockway, which excellent shots of the show actually in production. The fact that the show was shot and that Soupy was always relating to the crew, is what made the show as much fun as it was. Soupy was making himself and his crew laugh more than anyone, and we all got to be in on the joke. My favorite skits always had WHITE FANG or BLACK TOOTH. Here is a great one with White Fang.
Found this wonderful stand-up bit by Soupy as he tells the story of the famous "Green pieces of paper" scandal, in which he asked kids to raid their mothers' and father wallets and send him money. And, yes, he really did do that:
When I was watching the movie, The Conspiracy Theory, with Mel Gibson, some years back, I kept having this sense of recognition. Mel reminded me of someone during the entire film, and I had this sense of watching someone else. It took me a spell before I finally identified who the familiar face was: Soupy Sales! I'll post some pictures and you tell me there is no resemblance!
Honestly, I really like Soupy More.
Do yourself a favor and go on Youtube and watch several clips. Then you'll be in on the joke, too.
RIP, Soupy. Seems like just yesterday I was laughing on weekday evenings in 7th grade....
Addicted. Totally. And without remorse of any kind. It's my computer and I. It's not just that I love using it as a tool to create art. It's the web. The Internet is my worst vice and my greatest enjoyment. I am always on it. My husband has even said that someday he expects to come home find me stuck INSIDE the monitor, like some sort of Twilight Zone episode.
I can justify it to some extent, because I am not a TV watcher of any significance. I'd rather be on line, checking out everything from eBay to newspapers to blogs by other artists and writers then sitting in front of some mindless sitcom or self important drama. I've even discovered a whole cache of blogs that write about vintage stuff and collecting, which is what this very blog started out as about 5 years ago. There is no end to the kind of information I suddenly find myself interested in. Hey--wanna know more about scroll saws? Ask me!
Lately, however, my addiction to the net has to do with something more essential: getting my daily dose of humor. And my top choice of enjoyment? AWKWARD FAMILY PHOTOS.